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The way we were

On my kitchen floor are five shopping bags stuffed with old clothes. The oldest garment dates back to around 2007. All had been relegated to the storage room, where they had been hidden away in my wardrobe-cum-departure lounge.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ll take the clothes to Vinnies the past three years. Every year, I rifle through the collection again to see if my attitude towards any of the items has shifted.

In the midst of searching for something else, I found myself opening the wardrobe of old things and trying on various garments. This was a worthwhile activity; I reinstated two pieces and have made my mind up about what I will never, ever wear again. Those aligning with the latter category are what is filling those shopping bags by the back door. They will make it to Vinnies this time – today.

Last night, I was very much impressed by my friend D’s recitation of the history of Roman Catholicism. His recounting began in 250AD, and ten minutes later when he had reached present day, I was both in awe and had tuned out. The human mind, and memory, never ceases to amaze. So it was when I was reminded of the story behind each garment that passed through my hands – where I had bought them, occasions when I’d worn them and what I’d worn them with. This was, admittedly, a feat of memory not quite on par with D’s. All the same –

Here was the black and white-striped top that had never fit me, even when it was brand new. I bought it because it made me think of Edie Sedgwick, whom I was obsessed with at the time. Here was a coat I purchased one winter in Hong Kong, with my hong bao money. Here are the skirts I acquired from H&M, the year I fell in love with the store, and when I was going through my high-waisted phase. Here, another skirt I can’t believe I wore throughout university: grey with a slight weave to it. Barely covering my arse. I used to pair it with a custom-printed tee that was a twin to the one my first boyfriend wore, in our Bonnie and Clyde days. Reinstated.

Everywhere I look on digital hangouts, people are posting evidence of how they’re spending their Christmas break sorting through things that were once relevant. They’re finding and sharing antique crockery, ten year old copies of Maxim magazine, an application to Brown. These are the things that we only take photos of when we re-discover them, the detritus of our mundane, everyday lives.

If the clothes we wear and the stuff we surround ourselves with tell the world who we are, then these items we once wore and used tell us who we used to be. They speak of past tastes, ambitions once held, our past activities of choice for staving off boredom. We look to these things to see how far we’ve come, how different a person we are now, or whether we haven’t really changed at all. They tell us where all that time has gone.

These are notions held within us, but we require these tangible objects to jog our memory, to shake that change loose. That’s why, I think, it can be so hard to discard old things. It’s like we’re throwing a part of ourselves away. If we don’t have this item anymore, how will we remember?

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